Photo of Giselle Velazquez, 23, by Madison McKinnon.
I was sitting in a room at the doctor’s office surrounded by Mickey Mouse decals. The cold and silence of the room echoed my thumping heart as my father sat to my left. I anxiously awaited my doctor’s arrival. The louder the talking outside the door became, the closer I knew she was about to enter.
My 16-year-old self jumped. “Hello, how are you?” she said. I settled down and went along with the routine check up. When it ended, I asked her a question I had been dreading.
“Can I get something like a note to go see a psychologist or psychiatrist or whatever?” The words ran out of my mouth faster than I could comprehend. “Is this about a boy?” she asked in a tone of voice that told me in her 30 plus years of being a doctor this question and answer was typical. “No, it isn’t,” I answered embarrassed. “Then it’s just a phase,” she said.
I am 23 and I still want to kill myself.
According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is defined as a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
My depression has been a constant battle of trying my best to not break down and cry at various times throughout the day. It is the horrible feelings that overwhelm me in the morning when getting out of bed. It is the constant battle I have trying to shut down my thoughts at bedtime. It is the self-loathing I practice in the mirror. It is the continuous desire to kill myself.
It began in middle school at the age of 12. After suffering through bullying, my depression set in. I had been tormented in ways I didn’t know had affected me so severely. I was made fun of because of my weight and called a “lesbian” daily. Most of the bullying occurred at lunchtime with former friends staring at me as I walked by. They whispered and laughed. If it didn’t occur at lunch, it took place in the locker rooms during P.E. I was made fun of for the clothing I wore, which was the same as everyone else’s. I was called out for looking anywhere but directly at my locker.
Girls would surround me and I would have rather gone blind than to sit there and hear the word “lesbian” over and over again. I remember an instance where a friend asked me to check her pants to make sure she hadn’t stained herself. Two girls who bullied me the most recorded me checking her pants and called me a lesbian again. The video was never sent out to my knowledge, but if it had, I most likely would have killed myself.
According to a study by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, peer victimization, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts are associated by history of victimization. The longer the history of victimization, the greater the risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt.
I suffered through the bullying until it ended and then the depression officially took over. The suicidal ideation quickly followed. I couldn’t get through most days without being sad in my classes and wishing the day was over. Any time that I was too sad to complete basic tasks I thought about killing myself and used it as a coping mechanism.
If times were too tough and I couldn’t work my way out of problems, I could commit suicide. That thought only helped me muscle through the pain.
I reached out for help in high school and sat through a talk with my English teacher. His words were encouraging but didn’t feel authentic. It felt as if he was doing what was expected of him as a teacher. There was no sense that he really cared about me.
My next visit was to my high school counselor who was supposed to help me through this but instead called me a drama queen. I was made to feel guilt and shame for reaching out for help. I vowed to never reach out again because if suffering through sadness and thoughts of suicide wasn’t already hard enough, the sickening feeling in my stomach that arrived each time I replayed myself asking for help was worse.
According to the Depression and Bipolar support alliance, 14.8 million Americans adults suffer from major depressive disorder
Angelica Cruz, an 18-year-old journalism and television production major, can relate. She suffers from depression and anxiety disorder.
“I like to use the film “Groundhog Day” to describe how it works,” Cruz said. “Bill Murray goes through this loop where every day he wakes up on the same day and goes through the same motions, but unlike him, who eventually gets out of the loop, I have yet to find a way to escape.”
Her depression and anxiety has taken a toll on her physically.
“I remember in high school being exhausted all the time,” she said. “There would be days where the first thing I’d do when I got home was just sleep and do absolutely nothing.”
She eventually resorted to self-harm.
“My mental illnesses played a part in me beginning to self-harm, which as a result caused me to develop an eating disorder.”
For Karen Osorio, a 23-year-old political science major who suffers from depression, distancing herself from her friends became a way of coping. She says the lack of contact with her family is what affects her the most.
“I should be there, they are going through a lot. I don’t know what it is, I just don’t feel like being around them at times.”
Both Osorio and Cruz reached out for help but it made things worse. Cruz said the school psychologist was only concerned about her self-injury.
Osorio, who saw the school psychiatrist twice, said she didn’t understand what she was going through.
“I don’t know how to describe her; she didn’t understand me and she would just be so hard on me,” Osorio said. “I want people to be gentle and she was just so rough on me.”
This is not uncommon. The National Association of School Psychologists reports that school counselors are often not equipped to counsel and identify students at risk of harming themselves or taking their own lives. “Depression, particularly in teenagers, is often described as the invisible illness. Its symptoms can easily masquerade as part of the normal tumult of adolescence, a time not noted for level moods or stable behavior.”
The organization suggests that schools destigmatize and shed light on the illness. “Perhaps the most important thing schools can do to combat depression is to make the illness easier to identify. Principals can work with their school psychologists and other mental health staff members to educate students, staff members, and parents on the realities, risks, and signs of depression.” Also, the organization confirms that an impersonal, alienating school culture can contribute to students’ risk of depression
This was the case for me. After failed attempts at adapting to an isolating environment in high school and not getting any help, my depression turned me into my own biggest bully. It brought along a new feeling of despair and suicidal ideation. Where my bullies ended my torment, I picked it up. Soon enough, I was the one calling myself names.
I began to hate myself more and more each day. I told myself I was disgusting and ugly, and that I wasn’t worthy of friendships, of love, of being treated nicely, of any respect. I made myself believe that my family only loved me because they were forced to. I told myself that I was a burden to my friends and that they were too nice to get rid of me. I told myself that any time someone was nice to me or complimented me that they did it out of pity. I became distant from the world around me. It felt like the scene in “Alice in Wonderland” where she falls down the rabbit hole. I was falling and I couldn’t make it stop. I couldn’t love.
My depression was unraveling in ways I could no longer control.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for people ages 15–24.
I rolled myself out of bed each morning and it felt like there was an anchor tied around my ankle. I attempted to heal but stumbled on ways to replace my continuous guilt with hope. I grew accustomed to disliking the world around me and by the end of high school, I no longer cared. I did not care about the people in my life and I did not care about myself.
I looked to college as a place for improvement. I was optimistic for the first time in years. I believed that since I was an adult and colleges were full of adults, then I would be safe from the harm of others. I would be able to erase my wounds and start as a blank canvas, but I was wrong.
According to the CDC, in 2013, 9.3 million adults in the United States reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year.
I was one of them. As an adult, if my depression taught me anything, it was that I was incapable of love. This made me chase after it. It could have been the self-hate that caused me to fall in love with a friend. I believed that if I couldn’t love myself then maybe someone else would see my worth.
His name was Josh. I met him in my math class in my second semester at college. In my brokenhearted eyes, he was perfect. I would stare at him during class and I loved listening to him talk. I didn’t speak to him until the end of the semester, but from the moment I saw him on the first day of school to the moment we met, I dreamed up every scenario possible with him. I knew I was damaged goods and no one would ever see beyond that, but the little ounce of optimism I carried with me indicated that maybe this was it. This was my chance to love and to learn to love. This was my chance to heal. I wanted to miraculously wake up one day completely normal.
I made Josh out to be everything I had ever wanted in another human being. We had a lot in common and shared similar beliefs and desires.
I gave him affection I didn’t know I was capable of. I would have done anything for him. He was just a friend but my heart exploded every time we spoke. And then one day we didn’t speak. I thought nothing of it until it turned into 30 days.
I began to berate myself. I told myself if I was only been prettier or skinnier or smarter or less of a mess that maybe he would have stuck around. I silently tortured myself for four years. I found it difficult to complete a single day without breaking down. I couldn’t walk around school without remembering something about him. I woke up thinking about him and I fell asleep at night in tears. An avalanche of feelings grew inside me and I couldn’t make it stop.
I could not stop loving him. He was no longer a part of my life but I wished every day that he was. I planned out what would happen if we met again. I thought of what I would say and what I would do. This vicious cycle of providing hope for myself and then crushing it lasted for four years.
One day I could no longer take it. I’d had enough. I came to the realization that this was why I couldn’t move on with my life.
I decided to speak. Like a dog on command, I spoke. At first, I started to talk about my depression. And then I talked about Josh. I admitted every dream and aspiration I had about him. I talked about the depression and suicidal ideation that tormented me. I spoke about the bullying. Through tears and shame, I learned that what I was feeling was normal. I learned to heal.
I learned to accept Josh’s role in my life as the tipping point.
While I continue to struggle with relationships, I have begun to heal. Talking with both my friends and family has lessened the hold depression has on me. Through my struggle with depression and suicidal ideation, silence was my only friend. I was ashamed to talk about but the more I speak, the more I realize that there is nothing wrong with having feelings no matter what those feelings are.
I no longer wake up with despair or hopelessness. I wake up excited to see what awaits me. I am optimistic. I practice self-love in the mirror every morning. I no longer believe I’m ugly and or that I’m damaged goods. I show affection to everyone in my life and I’m no longer afraid to love.
I am still not completely healed and I may never be, but instead of looking at my depression and thoughts of suicide as a flaw, I see them as a part of my life that I need to work on. So talk to someone. Start a conversation.